Nearly 836,000 refugees have fled Ukraine conflict: UN

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The number of refugees fleeing the conflict in Ukraine has surged to nearly 836,000, United Na-tions figures showed Wednesday, as fighting inten-sified on day seven of Russia’s invasion.

In all, 835,928 people have fled across the coun-try’s borders, according to the website of UNHCR, the UN refugee agency.

That marks a huge jump from the 677,000 an-nounced Tuesday afternoon by the organisation’s chief Filippo Grandi.

More than half have headed west into Poland, according to tallies completed up to Tuesday.

UNHCR figures show that 454,000 people had fled to Poland; 116,000 to Hungary; 67,000 to Slo-vakia; 65,000 to Moldova, 43,000 to Russia, 38,000 to Romania and 350 to Belarus.

Meanwhile, 52,000 have moved on to other European countries. An additional 96,000 people had crossed into Russia from the separatist Donetsk and Luhansk regions between February 18 and 23, UNHCR noted.

Russian forces said they had captured the Ukrainian port of Kherson on Wednesday, as Rus-sian and Ukrainian troops battled in the streets of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, and President Volodymyr Zelensky said Moscow wanted to “erase” his country. “The military offensive in Ukraine has caused destruction of civilian infrastructure and civilian casu-alties and has driven many thousands of people from their homes seeking safety, protection and assistance,” UNHCR said.

“There is a clear indication that many more people are on the move. They are in need of protec-tion and support.”UNHCR projects that more than four million Ukrainian refugees may eventually need protection and assistance in neighbouring countries.

Around 2,500 migrants tried to storm the border separating Spain’s Melilla enclave from Morocco on Wednesday in the largest such attempt on record, officials said, but under 500 managed to get across.

Melilla and Ceuta, Spain’s other tiny North Af-rican enclave, have the European Union’s only land borders with Africa, making them a magnet for mi-grants desperate to escape grinding poverty and hunger.

“This was the biggest entry attempt we have on record,” the Spanish government’s local delegation said in a statement, indicating 491 sub-Saharan Africans had managed to cross.

The migrants used “hooks” to scale the high fence surrounding the tiny territory and threw stones at police, it added. “The great violence used by the migrants… overwhelmed the Moroccan security forces who were trying to prevent them from reaching the fence,” it said.

Sixteen Spanish police and security officials sustained minor injuries in the attempt, while 20 migrants were treated in hospital for mostly light injuries before being transferred to a migrant recep-tion centre.

“Around 9:30 am, there was a huge attempt to cross Melilla’s border by a group of about 2,500 sub-Saharan Africans,” it said, indicating some had spiked shoes to help them scale the fence.

Most of those trying to cross were blocked by Spanish police.—APP

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